Kohl’s targets bargain hunters at new Off/Aisle stores

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WAUWATOSA, Wis. — Kohl’s Corp.’s new Off/Aisle store has a polished concrete floor, sleek lighting fixtures and a way of pricing merchandise that is very different from the Menomonee Falls retailer’s traditional department stores.

No coupons or special discounts here. At Off/Aisle, everything has a “spot” price. Items with an orange circle on the tag are $4; items with a blue circle, $6. Prices range from $4 to $70, most on the lower end of that scale.

Kohl’s opened its first Off/Aisle store in New Jersey in June. Two Milwaukee-area stores are its second and third.

“It’s very different from a typical Kohl’s store,” said Rick Schepp, chief administrative officer of Kohl’s. “It doesn’t have all the fancy fixtures, and the values you’ll find here are deep and compelling.”

Off/Aisle’s target is women, specifically women who love to shop. There are fewer pieces of each item, so shopping is more of a hunt, and the store does not take returns, Schepp said.

Merchandise will change quickly and be mostly in season, Schepp said. The stores are a good place for Kohl’s to sell merchandise that isn’t stocked in its traditional stores but has been returned to them by online customers, he said. Those goods previously would have been sold to wholesalers, he said.

Kohl’s move into the off-price business comes as traditional department stores have struggled and off-price retailers have flourished.

Kohl’s is not the only traditional department store to take an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach. Macy’s opened a number of off-price stores called Macy’s Backstage in the New York area last fall.